Recent Publications from DEMARLE INC

    Teach your Child Skills for Life

      Published in the Democrat and Chronicle on April 4th, 2012
      You’re a parent. Along with parenting’s daily joys and heartaches, part of your job is to turn this offspring of yours into a functioning adult, who will one day move out of your house. And as good a parent as you are, there is probably something you are forgetting to teach your child simply because there is so much for children to learn. As a helpful reminder, here’s a short guide of some of the most important skills you need to teach them.

      How to read. This seems obvious, of course, but many adults do not know how to read. That means there is no guarantee your child will learn. Reading is hard work and some children need help to learn and master this skill. Be sure they get it.

      How to cook a meal. Everyone needs to learn the skills that go into cooking a meal. These include using coupons, making grocery lists, going shopping, preparing food, cooking, serving and yes, cleaning up afterwards.

      How to be financially literate. Don’t assume that knowing math is the same thing as knowing how to balance a check book and keep it balanced, or knowing when an offer is too good to be true. Start talking about and teaching these skills today.

      How to work hard. Today, the message everywhere is how to get a lot for as little work as possible. Successful people know how to sit down, dig in and work hard. Model this at home, and give your children jobs and to-do lists so that they can learn this skill as early as possible. Our whole culture is working against you on this one!

      How to avoid an unplanned pregnancy. This is important for both boys and girls. Health education in schools is great, but often starts too late. Some preteens have already been sexually active by the time parents or schools get around to teaching this information. So start early. Be direct, express your values, provide practical advice, keep the communication lines open, and involve your pediatrician if you are uncomfortable teaching these skills yourself, or find out you started too late.

      How to run, bike or walk. Daily exercise can literally be a life saver. With physical education classes being cut in many schools, there’s even more of a reason for parents to model and teach these skills. Knowing how to exercise and doing it regularly can add years to your child’s life.

      How to be a friend. Many individuals today are good at making friends, but struggle with maintaining friendships over time. This is a different skill set then knowing how to make a good first impression. Knowing how to resolve differences and keep a friendhip growing means you also know how to be a good spouse. Young children need direct teaching and guidance on how to maintain friendships over time.

      How to compromise. Compromise is an essential skill in any human relationship. It is particularly vital in close personal relationships and in the job world. Many children, however, don’t know how to do it. This is a difficult skill to teach, but it can be done through direct instruction and modeling.

    Good Counsel: Dealing with demanding children

      Published in the Democrat and Chronicle on October 4th, 2011
      A not uncommon parent complaint is that the child is running the household. This may be a 3 year whose temper tantrums are controlling the household, an 11 year old whose anxiety is leading to more and more limits on the family's behavior, or a 17 year old whose social schedule dictates the family existence. When this is happening there are specific steps a family can take to resolve the issue.

      Recognize that there is likely a degree of truth in the feeling and that there is a problem. A 3 year old, an 11 year old, and many 17 year olds do not have the maturity to make adult decisions. Adult decisions range from when a child goes got bed, to what will be served at dinner, and to when an adolescent's curfew is, or whether they have a cell phone.

      Realize that power in a family cannot be stolen, it can only be given. An adult caving into a 3 year old's temper tantrum is giving power to the 3 year old. This is power a three year cannot handle. Fortunately power given, can be taken back.

      Sort out what has led to the problem. Is this a short or long term chronic problem? Is this a response to a child's disability, such as a child's Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder. Families routinely go through periods of stability and instability. A tired overstressed parent is more likely to allow a demanding 11 year old to dictate dinners and social arrangements. Sometimes the reason this happens not obvious and sometimes not. At times the family will need to work with a professional to find the underlying issues, and/or to provide treatment for a specific disability.

      Begin to adjust the parent/child balance. This involves the parent setting and enforcing reasonable limits. There are many techniques and skills that parents can use to accomplish this goal. It has been done many times, no matter how tough it might seem at the outset. Carefully choose the limits. Once a limit/rule is stated if there are two parents in a house, they must both enforce this limit. If a parent caves or doesn't back the other parent, the parents credibility is undermined, thus the parent's power is diminished once again.

      After the parent is setting and enforcing reasonable limits, the child needs to be taught the art of the compromise. This is particularly necessary with older adolescents. They are becoming adults and need to have a sense of their own power and autonomy, but not the expense of the family. A good compromise allows the parent and adolescent to both gain from an agreement.

      Click on this link to download the pdf file of the article from the D&C.

    Good Counsel: Dealing with life's challenges

      Published in the Democrat and Chronicle on July 5th, 2011
      Life rarely has happy endings. Terrible things can and do happen on a regular basis. One measure of a successful life is how well we deal with these challenges. Regardless of what type of challenge arises, there are steps a family can take to survive it.

      Recognize and acknowledge the issue. There is a natural tendency to refuse to acknowledge an issue. This prevents taking any action to deal with it. Some issues, like a death in the family, will simply not allow denial but others, such as a child being bullied at school, can be denied.

      Once the problem is recognized, communication is vital to try to build consensus about the problem. In a family, problems are much easier to deal with when the family, particularly the two parents, agrees on the problem. This can greatly speed up the process of dealing effectively with the problem.

      At times professional help is necessary to help with this process. There are times when marriages will end over this issue with one spouse feeling he or she has to focus on the problem and the other parent's efforts are seen as hindering dealing with the issue.

      Identify and reach out to others who can help. There are natural allies and paid professionals who can help provide effective interventions. Their role may be may be as simple as correctly identifying the problem, or as complex as laying out the treatment plan.

      Recognize that every member of the family will be on their own time frame in recognizing and dealing with the problem.

      To help build consensus, allow some time but also provide lots of information to help everyone gain a similar understanding of the problem.

      Decide on a plan to deal with the problem. In the process of dealing with painful events, having a plan helps you feel like things are back under your control. This can then lead to a lessening of feelings of depression. Depression feeds on a lack of movement or direction and decreases with a feeling that things are moving forward.

      Take the time needed to deal with the problem. Time is often the solution to many problems, but it can also be a cause of problems. After illnesses or trauma one of the most common errors families make is to try to rush to a return to normalcy. This at times, however, can lead to returning to work or school before they are ready. In some cases, this can lead the person to run into difficulties at work or school that can make the original problem worse.

    Health checkup: Never give up on challenging kids

      Published in the Democrat and Chronicle on April 6th, 2011
      All too often I see parents, teachers, administrators and, at times, even counselors and physicians give up on a particular child. The child's behavior, attitude, lack of skill, or lack of seeming motivation has so driven the adults and others crazy that they already have or are on the verge of giving up on that child. If this happens, it leads to a further downward cycle that the child may never recover from. It does not, however, have to be that way. Rather than giving up, there are steps you can take to turn this situation around.

      Children innately want to learn, succeed and have their parents be proud of them. If they are not doing these things, then there are likely one or more underlying problems.

      Your first step is to find out what is causing the behaviors that are making you want to give up on them. This often involves seeking out professionals or others who can sort out the underlying problems. Often the child does not even know himself what is causing the problem, and may cover his fear by blaming you. People are complex, so beware of overly simplistic answers. The old he/she is just a jerk is not an acceptable answer.

      Once you have information on what is causing the problems, follow up by asking questions, reading books and learning more. Share this information with the child and others in your life who need to know.

      Be persistent in advocating for the right support and treatment for the underlying problems. This may mean advocating with the school, the physician or the mental health system to get the support and treatment in place that the child needs.

      Work with professionals to address any underlying learning, behavioral or mental health needs. Getting the appropriate treatment for a disorder will help lead back to a path of family stability.

      Once a plan is in place, you need to work to re-establish that bond with your child, student or patient.

      Take time to take care of yourself. If you are stressed or exhausted you are more likely to simply want to give up.

      Build community. Find allies. Very difficult children are exhausting. If you are at the point of giving up on them, they typically have exhausted you. Find allies at their school, with family members, or in your church or community who can help give you perspective and support.

      Find a mentor for both you and your child. Some children need to hear the same message you are telling them from someone else because they can't hear it from you. They also need to see other possibilities, and a mentor can show them how to open those doors.

      Get yourself and your child connected with others. Parents give up on kids when the parent feels isolated and alone. The more conflicted the home setting, the more isolated a family feels. End that cycle by connecting with friends, neighbors, your community or community groups.

      Get your child out in the wilderness and away from the home environment for a weekend. No cellphone, nothing to do and spending time together leads to a great opportunity to reconnect and recharge that parent/child bond.

      Limit or eliminate things that are driving your family apart. This includes limiting all electronics, including texting and cellphones. While they are supposed to be communication tools, excessive use actually weakens communication within a family and family bonds.

      Have the family make and eat dinner together. It's hard to be a family if you are never together as a family. The simple act of preparing food together allows simple conversation. Simply spending time together helps a family be together.

      Go for a 20-minute daily walk together. The two rules are no electronics and no nagging. Physical activity changes both of your moods, which makes it easier to spend time together.

      For more suggestions, check out

    Health checkup: Tips for staying connected

      Published in the Democrat and Chronicle on January 5, 2011
      The holidays are over. This is the time, therefore, to start preparing for Happy Holidays next year and for years to come. The following are steps to take to help ensure your children and grandchildren will be around to celebrate those holidays with you, and to ensure that you won't be spending them alone.

      Eat meals together. This simple step, although at times stressful, builds family connections. The simple act of eating and talking together binds a family together. Having your teen help cook the meal is an added bonus and gives more time to connect. It also models the importance of being together.

      Set and enforce reasonable limits on behavior. Setting limits on your children and teens causes short-term resentment but ends up with better-behaved individuals who ultimately know that we cared enough to go through the hassle of teaching them to be reasonable individuals.

      Assign chores. This simple step helps children see themselves as a valued and contributing member of a family unit versus just being guests in a motel.

      Go to or arrange family gatherings this year. Yes, your brother may drive you nuts, but by getting together you are modeling the importance of family. Children learn by what we do. If you are disconnected from your family, there is a strong chance that your children will be too, but from you.

      Schedule a fun family vacation and make it memorable. These are the events we mostly think of when we remember past family experiences. The brain stores these new situations more permanently then the day-to-day experiences of life. These shared experiences help connect families and serve as the building blocks for family memories.
      Give books not devices to read books and then read the books together. This may include reading to a smaller child or reading the same book as your teen. Watch the same TV shows with your teens. Both of these activities give you a common connection and a shared language. It also shows you value their opinions.

      Take family movies. Children rapidly forget. Occasionally watching those movies and laughing at them reminds them of your connectedness and of past fun times.

      Go camping someplace where there are no electronics or cell phone signals. This is a guaranteed way to get your grumpy teenager to talk to you, even if they complain for the first two days. The next two they will actually talk to you. After all what else do they have to do?

      Spend a night a week without any electronics. It is amazing how little communication and bonding occurs in the presence of constant electronic interference by computer, cell phone or TV. If you gave your children electronics for the holidays, you may have essentially given a gift that will further separate them from you. Next year, give gifts that the family can do together.

      If your children are older and already out of the house, reach out to them, by letter, phone, e-mail or instant message. Send notes, birthday cards, thank you notes, and personal note cards. Reach out to them, don't wait for them to reach out to you.

      Click this link to read the article on line.

    Take Control of the Net

      Published in the Democrat and Chronicle on November 17, 2010
      An article writen by Stephanie Veale on how to monitor a child or adolescent's Facebook and texting habits. I am one of the experts interviewed in the story.
      Click this link to download the pdf file of the story which also include additional material.

      Last year, Myriam Martinez' fifth-grade daughter requested a Facebook account.

      Martinez, of Brighton, had no idea how Facebook worked. What was a "Wall," and what exactly did it really mean to be someone's friend? How much control did a person have over privacy?

      She wasn't sure, so she set up her own account.

      Once she had navigated through the privacy settings and gotten a feel for the Facebook culture, she let her daughter use Facebook through the account she had set up and under close supervision. Her daughter keeps telling her "everyone" at school has an account, but Martinez and her husband stand firm that none of their three daughters have their own account.

      "I don't know what that means, 'everyone,' but I know that she wants to friend a lot of people who have Facebook accounts," says Martinez, who is surprised that so many middle-schoolers have access.

      These days - with Facebook, Twitter, texting, blogs, YouTube, streaming television shows and websites with inappropriate content galore - it can seem like cell phones and the Internet are assaulting families from all sides. But the worst thing a parent can do is retreat, says Ed Suk, executive director of the New York branch of the Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

      "It's a very complicated and challenging world of technology that we're living in right now, and sometimes the best advice for parents is to go back to the basics," Suk says. "Talk to your kids, set clear guidelines and make sure they have the ability to come to you when they're experiencing something inappropriate."

      It's never too early to start addressing Internet safety issues with your children, Suk says. And it's never too late, either - even though teenagers may be "light years" ahead of their parents in terms of Internet know-how, and it can feel overwhelming to delve into their world.

      The good news: There are plenty of resources to help parents navigate the ever-changing, complex Internet landscape. One resource is NetSmartz, an online cyber-safety workshop developed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for parents, teens, children and educators. NetSmartz has a "definitions" page that highlights common Internet terms for parents still learning the lingo; it also has a sister site,, that allows you to "Ask an Expert" if you have a specific question.

      The best way to handle Internet and cell phone issues is to make them part of an ongoing conversation with your child, "the same way we have ongoing conversations about lots of things we value as families," says Dan DeMarle, a local education specialist who includes links to cyber safety resources at

      "Parents need to protect their kids, and they can't protect them unless they know what they're doing," DeMarle says.

      We posed some common questions to the experts.

      What types of things should I be concerned about?

      If your child has an account on a social networking site, such as Facebook or MySpace, he or she can share information freely with people who are friends - or not. Oftentimes, children and teens are Facebook "friends" with people who they don't know very well, if at all. And some information, including name, school, city, address, phone number and photographs, can be made public to anyone on the Internet. It all depends on the user's privacy settings. Photographs have become a particularly insidious issue, Suk and DeMarle say. Even innocuous photos can pose a problem if privacy settings aren't strict enough.

      There is also an increasing number of ways for Facebook users and others to disclose their exact location at any given time. Facebook recently came out with the "Places" feature, allowing users to publicize where they are (in the real world) using their smart phone. Cameras and cell phones with built-in GPS capabilities can imprint GPS coordinates on a photograph that has been mobile-uploaded.

      And, of course, there are chat rooms, where children and teens can talk to people they do not know.

      How can I monitor my child?

      Parents should have complete access to their child's Facebook page, at least during the tween and early teenage years, DeMarle says.

      One way to monitor Facebook use and set ground rules is by writing up a contract with your child before you allow him or her to open an account, and say that you will revisit the contract each year, DeMarle says.

      "Contracts are easier to enforce because there's no ambiguity," he says. "It becomes kind of the third party. You can always argue with your parents, but it's hard to argue against written words."

      The point at which a teenager can have a secret password depends on a lot of factors and should be a family decision, DeMarle says. Even older teens should have to "friend" their parent on Facebook (and yes, you should be on the site, with your own account, monitoring what you can see and keeping up-to-date on new developments).

      Parents should also consider having the family computer in a common area, check histories of all computers regularly and consider blocking or monitoring software.

      What is cyberbullying?

      Cyberbullying can take many forms, but DeMarle says it usually happens these days through Facebook or through a popular website called With Formspring, users have an account and can ask questions of friends, including anonymous questions. So if a teen wants to pick on a classmate, he or she can message the classmate anonymously or post anonymously to that person's page: "Why did you wear such an ugly dress today?" (or something much worse). The hard part is, there's no name attached to the insult. Cyberbullying can also happen on blogs, through Instant Messenger or Google Chat, or other websites - basically any place on the Internet where it's possible to post comments or send messages.

      What should I do if it happens to my child?

      If you think something is going on, start by finding out exactly what happened. Have your child call up the posts in question and review them, and ask your child to tell you his or her version of events. Keep in mind that the line between bullies and victims often gets blurred, with victims turning into bullies and vice versa at a rapid pace, DeMarle says.

      In the moment, you should tell your child not to engage with the bully. The bullied teen should ignore mean-spirited messages, delete offensive comments, and even consider suspending his or her Facebook account until things have settled down, DeMarle says. Help your child think through ways of solving the problem on her own.

      If the issue involves children from the same school and it's spilling over into school time, inform the school, DeMarle says. But don't expect a uniform response: Some schools are very proactive with cyberbullying issues, and some won't touch them. This is a problem throughout New York state, Suk says.

      "I think schools are struggling with where the boundaries are," Suk says. "What are the civil rights of kids within school districts, and what are the boundaries? What are appropriate and inappropriate actions for schools to take?" (This spring, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is sponsoring a conference on this very topic.)

      If a conflict has escalated to a serious level among children who do not go to the same school, or the school isn't getting involved, you may need to contact the parents of the other kids, DeMarle says. If any of the cyberbullying rises to criminal levels, for example another teen posting nude pictures of your child on Facebook, then you should call the police.

      On the preventive side of things, Myriam Martinez has explained to her young daughters that friendships online should be treated like face-to-face friendships in some ways: Don't say anything you wouldn't say to someone in person, don't say mean things, don't post anything on someone's Wall that you wouldn't want on your own Wall. In other ways, you have to be even more careful with Facebook than with real life.

      "I tell them that when you share something with someone one on one, no one else hears it," Martinez says. "But when you post something on a Wall, anyone can see it. Even if it's just a joke, you're missing the context on the Internet. You don't get the whole story. You have to be really careful."

      What are the risks with cell phones?

      Teens have a tendency to spend way too much time texting when they should be doing other things, like paying attention in class, doing homework or sleeping, DeMarle said. "Sexting" has gained popularity and the danger is that more kids feel comfortable taking nude pictures of themselves and others, and disseminating them via text (or posting them to Facebook). Too much cell phone time can cause a child to do poorly in school or feel overtired from lack of sleep.

      Parents should treat a cell phone just like a computer and have the pass code and set the rules.

      Stephanie Veale is a freelance writer in Rochester.

    Good counsel: The Importance of Chores

      Published in the Democrat and Chronicle on October 6, 2010
      When we think of chores we think of hard work,- and that's the point. Children need to have chores, precisely because chores are hard work. Children need to know how to work hard and how to persist at hard work.

      Being effective at a future job will require an individual who knows how to persist at a hard work.

      Having chores teaches children important lessons. Children learn that being part of a family means contributing to the family.

      One way to contribute is to do chores.

      When the parent does all the housework, the child learns that their parent is their servant, and you don't, after all, take orders or listen to your servant.

      Chores are given based on the age of the child. A 4 year old can carry their nonbreakable plate and cup over to the sink after dinner. A 5 year old can help wipe off a table. An 8 year old can clean a bathroom mirror, sweep a floor, and vacuum a room. A 10 year old can clean bathroom sinks and wash floors. Preteens and teens can clean toilets and showers. Teens can also mow lawns and shovel snow.

      While most chores are just expected to be done, there are "stretch jobs" for which a child can earn money. These are jobs that are above a child's age.

      For example, a 9 year old would not get paid for cleaning a sink, but they could earn money for doing the "stretch job" of cleaning a toilet. An 11 year old may get paid for shoveling a driveway, but a 17 year old would not.

      Learning to manage money is a vital skill; paying children for some chores, provides them money to learn to spend.

      To make chores easy, post a weekly chore list with every child having a chore. Consider rotating the chores on a weekly basis.

    Good counsel: Give Meaning to Summer Activities

      Published in the Democrat and Chronicle on July 7, 2010
      Summer is here and the question for many families now is, "What will my child do this summer?"

      This is actually a vital question. Some children are what we call "summer children." They are children whose strengths do not show up in the day-to-day activity of school. However, they come to life when given sunshine, free time and a chance to explore. The quiet child in the classroom blossoms into the suntanned, raspberry-eating, star-gazing child with a smile on his or her face. That is, if we let them.

      Unfortunately, we often continue the same schedule during the summer that we do over the school year.

      As a result, children simply replace school with more time at day care or more time on their own at home. This can be counterproductive for your child in the long run, particularly if you have a summer child.

      Children need "I did it!" experiences. These are the experiences that have challenged them mentally, spiritually or physically. These are the experiences where a child can look back and say "If I did that, then I can do this!"

      "That" can be climbing a mountain, camping out in the woods, white-water rafting or going to a sleep-away camp for the first time. Some of these activities can be planned for, like a sleep-away camp, and others occur naturally when a child has the chance to explore nature with his or her family at hand.

      Regardless of the activity, "I did it!" experiences come from times where the child has been pushed a little past his or her safety zone. These are the experiences that help children become adults.

      These moments won't happen without planning. If a child's summer is structured in a way that he or she is never pushed a bit, they will not happen.

      "I did it!" experiences are best experienced with family at hand. That way, we can remind the child later about how they survived the experience. This means that families must take some time off and get away from the house, even if it is only going camping in the backyard for a weekend, taking a walk in a state park, or spending that week at Grandma and Grandpa's house learning how to bake a blueberry pie.

      Of course, white-water rafting and climbing a mountain are also possibilities.

    Health Checkup: Texting in School

      Published in the Democrat and Chronicle on April 14th, 2010.
      Would you let your child go to school intoxicated? Of course not. So why do we allow them to text while they are in school?

      Several recent studies have found that individuals who text while driving show the same driving impairments as individuals who drive while intoxicated.

      Of course, teens do even worse than adults in these studies. One recent study placed experienced texters in a driving simulator and found that they were six times more likely to crash than their non-texting peers. If texting impairs driving performance, it will also impair learning.

      Texting also causes a constant disruption in the classroom. Many teachers tell me that they spend a great deal of their teaching time dealing with cell phone and texting issues in the classroom.

      So you say, "My child doesn't text in school." I'm betting your child probably does. It's easy enough to find out - just look at your phone records. Most phone companies will provide you a detailed listing of when texts were sent. If they were made between 8 and 3, your child was texting in school.

      While you're looking at those records, also look at when those texts ended during the day. We know preteens and teens need a good 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night. If texts at midnight or 1 a.m. occur on a regular basis, your child is coming to school with a sleep deficit that will also impair learning.

      Parents are not always aware of the extent of the problem. In many schools, if a child is caught texting, the teacher will take the cell phone away but then give it back at the end of class. The parents never even know that it was a problem.

      In fact, many parents actually text their children when they are at school. Children and teens are not adults, however. The social world in middle school and high school is much more intense then most workplace settings. A text a child receives while in class can disrupt his or her learning for the rest of that period and beyond. So help your child learn and their teachers teach, and strictly limit cell phone use during the school day.

    Surviving the Holiday Season

      During the holidays many families with children can go from the feeling of close family bonding to yelling and screaming often in the course of the same day. This can occur for many reasons but knowing these reasons can help parents plan ahead to more easily manage the holidays and their children.

      For many families with children the holiday school vacation represents a break in routine, and the first time since a distant summer vacation that the family will spend considerable unstructured time together. This can occur whether children are home with a parent, home alone, or sent to vacation camps. The change in schedule caused by the holiday added to the excitement of the holidays can cause children and parents great stress. This stress can be magnified in children with disabilities, such as ADHD, depression, anxiety, etc.. and in their families.

      Many of the conflicts in the holiday relate to unstructured time. If children are home during the day, it's important to schedule parts of the day with specific activities. Not every moment needs to be filled, but interspersing scheduled activities during the day can head off stress, boredom, and arguments. Choosing active activities, like sledding, skiing, walks outside, games of snow football give the family structure but also help burn off excess energy and allow the family a chance to reconnect through shared activities.

      Children today have very different childhoods than children from one or two generations ago. Today's children are often isolated - both from peers because they often don't get to know other children in their neighborhood very well. They are often in daycare or have non-traditional families (through divorce, step-families), etc. Therefore when they are home for the holidays they may not have friends near by who are readily available to go play with, which increases the demands on the family to take them places or arrange activities for them to do.

      During the school vacation, it is helpful to give children daily responsibilities that can also help take some of the stress from parents and provide daily structure for children. Children, particularly adolescents, appreciate the chance to earn extra money by doing jobs around the house that they can spend over break with their friends. Some children will have school projects to work on during the holidays. It is best to try to get your child to do these in the first few days so that you do not find yourselves arguing about them all week or in panic mood the day before school starts. Even if they don't have homework, it is recommended that the family still keep up the homework routine on the nonholiday vacation days. This involves having your child spend a half-hour to an hour each day doing something quiet and thinking related, such as reading, crosswords, board games, or chess. This does not include electronic game time. Keeping the homework routine, can help smooth the transition back to regularly scheduled homework once the vacation ends, and reinforce the importance of learning.

      With children and adolescents it's easy to let them get out of their school sleep pattern. Just the excitement of the Holiday day, staying up late, and all the festivities can cause high emotions for the next few days. Particularly with adolescents, it's important as the vacation week nears its end to start moving them back to the earlier bed times, and earlier waking times of the school day. This helps ease the transition back to school so you don't end up creating a week of tired and cranky teens.

      Many of us make New Years resolutions. For parents New Years is often a missed opportunity. Just as we know the end of the year is the time to look over our financial picture, it is also the time to look over our parenting and our family life. As parents we all make mistakes at times. The whole trick to good parenting is to not make the same mistake over and over. At New Years make a list of things that have worked very well for your family over the last year, and then a list of things that have not gone well. Then set some goals. Also look at what arguments you have with your children. Often as parents we have the same arguments over and over. So its time to look at those arguments and decide how to handle them. But be realistic and come up with a doable plan.

      Encourage your child to be self-reflective. How was the year for them? What were the highs and what were the lows? What's working at school and what's not working? Then help your child set some goals for themselves.

      General strategies for surviving and enjoying the Holidays with children
      1) Keep a routine
      2) Provide activities for children to do during the vacation week
      3) Use the holidays to increase your child's sense of connectedness to the family and community. Use the holiday to broaden connections for kids by:
      • visiting with relatives,
      • telling stories, and/or
      • talking about your family's identity - what does it mean to be a member of the "DeMarle" family. What are your beliefs about gifts, holidays, etc.

      4) Give kids responsibilities - often the holidays "happen to" kids - let them help to make the holiday happen for your family. When children create and participate in family events, it helps to build their self-esteem. Let children participate by:
      • baking cookies for neighbors 
      • buying gifts for a needy child/children 
      • helping to wrap gifts
      • doing a family project
      5) Talk about the meaning behind the different holidays - Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza
      6) Kids have a different sense of time and reality. Therefore, parents need to talk to them about things more than once since their understanding changes as they grow.
      7) Set a goal to eat dinner together at least five times over the Holiday.
      8) If your child believes in "Santa" and believes "that he knows if you've been good or bad," use their Christmas gifts as an opportunity to reaffirm that they have been really good children.
      9) Use your library. Libraries can be a life saver during the holidays. Prior to the vacation week make a trip to the library and choose several books for each child to

    Halloween and parenting children with special needs

      Halloween is meant to be a fun and exciting time for kids. To ensure it is fun and safe, parents need to follow common safety tips and procedures. These include making sure that:
      • children are supervised, with the level of supervision varying by the age of the child/adolescent,
      • children are looking both ways when they cross the street, and
      • that candy is checked over before it is eaten.
      While these are general rules, parents of children and teens with specific disabilities, need to keep in mind some other facts. If a child has an Anxiety Disorder:
      • Halloween is scary, and just because you or their siblings think it is fun, that doesn't mean your child thinks it is fun
      • Even if they think it is fun, they may still be very anxious about the actual day and event
      • Your child may have been worrying/anticipating/dreading this day for some time, and maybe all primed for an emotional meltdown
      If a child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder
      • Halloween is a definite change in routine, and this can be disconcerting
      • The social interactions, "look them in the eye" can be overwhelming and quickly lead to behavioral melt downs.
      If a child has ADHD:
      • if your child takes a short acting medicine for school, it has likely worn off by the time they go trick or treating,
      • impulsivity is a core factor of ADHD, and it will be much more pronounced with all the excitement
      • Stopping and looking for cars is the opposite of being impulsive
      If a child is depressed:
      • one sign of depression, maybe not having any interest in all at going out trick or treating, and not going out can just confirm, their sense of worthlessness
      If your child has social issues, or is the target of teasing, or social exclusion:
      • Not having anyone to go out with is another sign to them that they have no friends
      If your child has behavioral problems:
      • they will push the limits and refuse to follow directions, even safety directions, when you are out and about.
      Fortunately there are steps that parents can take to address the above issues. To have a safe and effective Halloween remember the following:
      • Set it up for success by planning ahead.
      • Take care of yourself first. Get a good night sleep the day before, so you are rested. Come home early from work if possible to help get ready for the evening.
      • Try to have things ready a day or so in advance. The more stressed you are, and Halloween is stressful, the worse will be your ability to help your child have a successful day. This means, if possible, trying on costumes the day before Halloween. For children with sensory issues around clothing, you may want to start this process a week in advance, until they can tolerate the costume.
      • If need be, call in reinforcements. Ask an adult family member to come help. This also has the benefit of building and expanding your child's social network. If your child has social issues, having a cousin to go trick or treating with will make a big difference.
      • Keep numbers limited. In the dark it is easy to lose track of a child in a crowd of kids.
      • For young children, practice first. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorders try using social stories with them beginning a few days in advance, so they can practice before going out. You can ask their speech/therapist or special education teacher for help with this.
      • Remember to define what success means before going out. For some children, simply going to one house will be a success, for some going to five houses would be successful. Once they succeed, let them know how proud you are of them. For some very anxious children, success can simply mean having them help you pass out candy at your door.
      • If a depressed teen refuses to go out, plan another activity. Don't let them spend the night alone in their room. Get a good movie to watch, or go out to together to visit grandmother. Alternatively engage them in helping out a friend. If they are old enough, get them to volunteer with a neighborhood group, or community group's Halloween Activity.
      • For anxious children or children with social issues, arrange the social event for them a few weeks in advance. If this means getting together with cousins, or a neighbor, set that up in advance, so they know what the plans will be.
      • Set strict limits you can follow and enforce. It's easy to end up arguing with a child in the dark on a sidewalk, but why bother. Give them three chances and if they are not following your rules, turn around and come home. Never negotiate about safety issues in the middle of the street.
      • While you are out, remember to give sincere praise when they follow your directions.
      • Monitor. Monitor. Monitor. Your nonmedicated ADHD teen needs just as much supervision as your nonADHD 8 year old.
      • If they are going to a party, ensure that the party has responsible adult supervision. If not, they can go next year to another party that has supervision. This might even be at your house.
      • Control the candy, when you come home. Overindulgence is never pretty. After ensuring the candy is safe, take charge, have them divide the candy into Zip Lock Bags (ex 5 pieces in a bag), and put it away. They still get the candy (a bag at a time), but this way it gets paced out, rather than being devoured in two days.
      • Once the night is over, congratulate yourself for having a successful night, and write down a few notes, about what worked well and what to work on differently for next year. Also make sure you tell them how helpful they were and what a great job they did.
      © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2009

    Good counsel: Teaching children about money

      APRIL 1, 2009
      Children need to learn about money and financial literacy early.

      Unfortunately, many children's financial education ends after they learn to make change. In today's world, children need to learn the importance of saving, avoiding credit and living within a budget, among many other topics. I would rather have a child declare "bankruptcy" as a 9-year-old than drop out of college because of massive credit-card debt as a 19-year-old.

      Children need to have money to learn about managing money. I recommend paying children for specific jobs or chores. There are jobs children do simply because they are part of the family (e.g., clean the table). There are jobs that parents are glad to pay for, depending on a child's age. A 10-year-old may be paid for cleaning a bathroom, but a 14-year-old would simply be expected to clean a bathroom because they are part of the family. A 14-year-old, however, would still get paid for shoveling a driveway. Remember to give bonuses for extra effort, and/or for doing a job without being asked or reminded.

      Children learn the most about money when they are trying to save for a large purchase. Cell phones are ideal for this purpose. When a child is trying to save money for a cell phone, taking $10 to go to the movies means another two weeks without a phone. Once a child earns the money for a cell phone, they then need to pay part of the monthly service charges. Earning $15 a month in chores, and having to pay $20 a month in fees is a hard and fast way to learn about a balance sheet and living on credit, particularly when the cell phone disappears until the fee is paid.

      One mistake well-meaning parents make with children and preteens is the mandatory college savings-account piggy bank. It often goes like this: Grandma gives $40 for a birthday; $20 goes into the college piggy bank and $20 to the child. To a child with little concept of college, this simply teaches the child to spend their money as fast as possible. If they spend the $40 immediately or never let their parent know about it, they can spend the whole $40. It is better to teach the child about the importance of saving for bigger purchases. This lesson will transfer over time into the importance of saving for college when they actually start to earn money.

      Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D, is an education specialist at DeMarle Inc. in Rochester.

    Good Counsel: While teens rebel against rules, parents must continue to enforce limits

      One day she's a compliant grade-schooler and the next, it seems, she's trying to head out the door in an outfit that would make your mother faint.

      When facing adolescent behavior that challenges family rules and values, the first step is to recognize that it's part of your child's normal drive for independence. Middle-school students and their older siblings are busy trying to become individuals in their own right, pushing for greater freedom as they slowly mature into adults.

      You can neither give up on your fractious teen and abdicate your role as parent, nor lock him in his room until he leaves for college. Effective parenting means slowly allowing your child more independence but also ensuring his safety at a time when he does not have the experience to make wise choices.

      The parent's ongoing job, then, is to set and enforce limits, but to expand the limits as the child shows she is able to handle more freedom responsibly.

      Failure to follow the family rules should lead to realistic consequences, just as success in meeting expectations should lead to opportunities for greater independence. There are no instant fixes, but here are a few tried-and-true techniques.

      Model what you hope to see (and start doing this early). If you want respect, show respect to your child. Use sarcasm as a parenting technique and you will get it back in spades.

      Set high standards. The teen's job is to rebel, so he may meet your expectations for A or B grades in school by getting Cs. If you expect Cs, however, he may start getting Fs.

      Focus on good behavior. If you tell your daughter she's dressed like a slut, you may end up reinforcing that behavior. ("Hah, if I dress like this, I'll push Mom's buttons.") Instead, make a positive comment when her clothes meet expectations.

      Practice compromising. Or, don't back your teen into a corner. Look for solutions that let her get some of what she wants while you get some of what you want. If you just can't live with the super-cropped top, maybe you can give way on the black nail polish.

      Set reasonable limits. Consequences should be short-term and enforceable. "OK, since you weren't home on time, hand over your cell phone until tomorrow night."

      Spend time together. She may tell you to leave her alone, but she needs to get the message that you still love her. Take a drive in the car or a walk around the block. Don't talk about homework or anything that's an issue at home. Your job is to listen to what she has to say.

    Medical Sense: Friendship and kids, how to help children with friends

    Medical Sense: Friendship Skills: What parents need to know to help thier children

Other Publications

The National Center for Education Statistics has released The Condition of Education 2010, a report summarizing important developments and trends in education using the latest available data. The report presents 49 indicators on the status and condition of education, in addition to a special section on high-poverty schools. Among the data reported relating to students with disabilities--95 percent of the children and youth who received special education services in 2007-08 were enrolled in regular schools, and 6.6 million children and youth, representing 13 percent of public school enrollment, received special education services. Of those who received these services, 39 percent did so for a specific learning disability. This Condition of Education is available by visiting this link.

Past Publications

Available from Amazon
Working with the family of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. An article from: Pediatric Nursing by Daniel J. DeMarle (Author), Larry Denk (Author), Catherine S. Ernsthausen (Author)

© Copyright, all rights reserved Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2014